Professional wrestling has long been a family business. Many explanations can be offered, such as wrestling’s secretive nature and itinerant lifestyle. Many wrestling families have become well-known dynasties, such as the McMahons, the Anoa’i, and the Harts. Familial relationships have been emphasized to develop characters and advance careers for some wrestlers, while others have found it impossible to escape the reach of their familial shadow. Multiple generations have occupied talent rosters in recent years more than at any other time in the television era. When The Rock debuted in 1996 as Rocky Maivia, he was the first third-generation superstar in WWE history. Twenty-one years later, Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt – both third-generation superstars – faced off for the WWE Title at a Wrestlemania that featured a total of 15 wrestlers with a family connection to someone not actively competing. Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair, The Usos, and Natalya are a few of those superstars with famous wrestling parents. However, parentage is not the only relationship that has connected wrestlers over the years. Marriages and extended family relationships have also played a role in linking wrestlers of different eras. Here is a look at some lesser-known family relationships in the world of professional wrestling.
15. The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker: Family Reunions Can Be The Worst
The Undertaker vs. Undertaker match at SummerSlam 94 is considered one of the worst pay-per-view main events of all time, as well as one of the most disappointing outings from The Deadman. A lot of explanations have been offered over the years as to why it was so bad, but it cannot be argued that the participants were unfamiliar with one another. The fake Undertaker was portrayed by Brian Lee, a first cousin of Mark Calaway. Lee’s resemblance to the real Undertaker was striking, even if his in ring abilities were not. Lee enjoyed successful stints in the CWA/USWA and Smokey Mountain (where he was the first champion) prior to impersonating his cousin. Afterwards Lee made a living by choke slamming Tommy Dreamer through multiple stacks of tables from the upper regions of the ECW Arena. He returned to the WWE as Chainz of The Disciples of Apocalypse and participated in the “Gang Warz” angle of 1997. He was released in 1998 and has made only sporadic wrestling appearances since. The poor quality of his SummerSlam 94 family reunion purportedly ended further plans for a longer Undertaker vs. Undertaker program. It may have also saved us all from seeing Lee team with Luke Gallows’ Kane as the Fake Brothers of Destruction.
14. Carmella’s Wrestling Pedigree
The Princess of Staten Island has a wrestling pedigree, but it is anything but royal. Carmella’s father is Paul Van Dale, a career jobber of the late 80s and early 90s who made sporadic appearances for the WWE on programs such as Superstars and Wrestling Challenge. He also wrestled as Paul Vandello. Among the talent Mr. Van Dale enhanced are WWE Hall of Famers Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, and the Big Bossman. The influx of second-generation Superstars into the WWE has been remarkable in the 21st century, but remarkably almost none of those stars have been the children of enhancement talent. It may not be the path that fits the typical WWE narrative, but it hasn’t hindered Miss Money in the Bank. Besides, Carmella probably won parent career day in school every year.
13. Alex Wright: Second Generation Wunderkind
Alex Wright, a mainstay in WCW from 1994 to its end, may have been a European techno dancing fool, but he was also carrying on the family business of professional wrestling. His father, Steve Wright, wrestled in Britain, Calgary, and New Japan in the 70s and 80s. His uncle Bernie briefly competed as “Wonder Boy” in British Columbia in the 80s. Wright’s second-generation status was briefly mentioned in his early time in WCW, but was quickly dropped along with his initial push. Wright’s legacy resurfaced when he blamed Fit Finlay for ending his father’s career, resulting in a forgettable match at Halloween Havoc 98. Wright then briefly transitioned into Berlyn, but that character was abandoned when Vince Russo took over creative, miraculously passing on the chance to name Berlyn’s parents East and West.
12. Nick Patrick’s Fatherly Interference
Nick Patrick was one of the most recognizable referees of the Monday Night War, being both WCW’s respected top official and a stooge of the nWo. He went on to become the top referee on SmackDown in the early 2000s. Referees have always had to contend with evil managers while simultaneously handling the action in the ring, but the task has to be harder when the manager in question is your father. Jody Hamilton was a regional star as The Assassin in the 70s and 80s, as well as a booker and agent for WCW. He briefly returned to an on-screen role in 1993, leading Paul Orndorff against Dustin Rhodes in a proxy battle with long-time nemesis Dusty Rhodes. Orndorff challenged Dustin for the US Title at Clash of the Champions XXV, with poor Nick having to officiate around his father’s shenanigans. Watch their jawing back and forth during the match and wonder if The Assassin is giving Nick unsolicited advice or just reminding him to check his tire pressure.
11. Eddie Gilbert and Madusa: Hot Stuff A’Blayze
The late “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert was considered one of the most innovative minds of his generation, as his edgy booking (with Paul Heyman) for the Continental Wrestling Federation and Eastern Championship Wrestling are a predecessor of the style adopted by Extreme Championship Wrestling. He had a well-known marriage to Missy Hyatt (pictured with him above), which was used on air in the UWF and WCW, but he was also briefly married to WWE Hall of Famer Madusa. She was one of the top performers of her generation, holding the Women’s Championship in both the WWE (as Alundra Blayze) and AWA, as well as the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Madusa is the first woman to be voted the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Rookie of the Year (1988). Despite being a foremother of the Women’s Revolution, she is widely remembered for dumping the WWE Women’s belt in a trashcan on an early episode of WCW Monday Nitro, one of the first significant dents put in the wall of traditional kayfabe. These two innovators were briefly married in 1990, having met at a Tri-State Wrestling Alliance show. The TWA was the precursor to Eastern Championship Wrestling, which later decided to become Extreme.
10. Dick Murdoch: Second Generation Redneck
Dick Murdoch is forever connected to Dusty Rhodes as the other half of The Texas Outlaws, but he was no Marty Jannetty. “Captain Redneck” was one of the toughest competitors of the 70s and 80s, coming from a generation of Texas wrestlers whose performance centers were roadside honky-tonks. He was a major draw in St. Louis, Mid-South, Amarillo, and other significant US territories, as well as Japan. Murdoch held numerous important regional championships, including three Missouri Heavyweight Titles and three North American Heavyweight Titles. He also held the WWE Tag Team Titles with Adrian Adonis for nine months in 1984-85. It was rarely mentioned that Murdoch was a second-generation wrestler; his father, Frankie Murdoch, competed from the 1930s through the 1950s under a variety names, much in the pre-NWA territories.
9. Doink the Clown: Not the Worst Gimmick in the Family
Doink the Clown is one of the most divisive characters of the WWE’s New Generation era. Matt Borne (son of regional star Tony Borne) portrayed Doink in his successful heel incarnation, which many fans loved but others found ridiculous, even by early 90s WWE standards. Borne was fired after only a year, and Doink was recast and turned into a comical face. Borne was no stranger to dumb gimmicks; he portrayed the lovable lumberjack Big Josh in WCW, a sharp contrast to the straightforward rough-houser that Borne had worked to success across several territories in the 1980s.
Borne never had the worst gimmick at Thanksgiving dinner, however. Borne’s brother-in-law for several years was Playboy Buddy Rose, a talented worker who was a major draw in Portland and early 80s WWE. He was in the opening match of the first WrestleMania as the masked Executioner. A year later he and Doug Somers were the AWA tag team champions pursued by the young The Midnight Rockers pursued, giving Shawn Michaels his first high profile feud. Rose’s physique left much to be desired, and he insisted that ring announcers state his weight significantly lower than it was. In 1990 Rose appeared in the WWE promoting the “Blow Away Diet,” where he would cover himself in powder and blow it off with a large electric fan. Rose then appeared oblivious to the fact that the fat had not been removed. The “Blow Away Diet” was one of many ridiculous early 90s WWE gimmicks that burdened established talent and, unfortunately, is the only way many fans remember Rose.
8. Haku: Father of Champions
Whether you know him as Haku or Meng, there is little argument that Tonga Fifita is one of the toughest (if not the toughest) man in the wrestling business. His exploits are staples of wrestling mythology, whether he was winning bar brawls, breaking out of hand cuffs, being unfazed by mace, or biting off noses. Haku’s sons have followed in his wrestling footsteps. Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa (who wrestled as Camacho in the WWE for a few years) have made a significant name for themselves in New Japan, where they team as the Guerillas of Destiny. They are three-time IWGP Tag Team Champs and members of the Bullet Club. With the WWE’s dual interest in New Japan talent and second-generation stars, don’t be surprised to see them in NXT down the road.
7. Uncle Barby
Haku’s long-time friend, tag team partner, and fellow reputed tough guy The Barbarian already has family in NXT. His niece Lei’D Tapa, an indie scene standout, debuted on the July 26 episode of NXT against Ember Moon. She was permitted quite a bit of offense against the presumed Asuka-conqueror before falling to The Eclipse. Tapa has created quite the buzz amongst wrestling fans. She should be attractive to the WWE for many reasons. She is a powerhouse wrestler with great size and strength. She has the family and athletic background that the WWE likes; in addition to being from a wrestling family, she also played football and fought MMA. The Barbarian was a career mid-carder who achieved most of his success in tag teams, but don’t be surprised if his niece goes further.
6. Horace Hogan’s Other Awesome Relative
Fans of the Monday Night War era remember Hulk Hogan’s nephew Horace Boulder, a member of Raven’s Flock who later joined the nWo B-Team as Horace Hogan. Fans also remember Mike Awesome, the ECW Champion who signed with WCW while still holding the belt, forcing Paul Heyman to cut a deal with WWE allowing Tazz (a contracted WWE wrestler) to win the title from Awesome (a contracted WCW wrestler) on an ECW show. That Horace’s father was Hogan’s brother was not hidden. What is less known is that Horace and Awesome are maternal cousins. The two men teamed up regularly early in their careers in Japan’s hardcore promotion FMW. They were never paired up on WCW television as their relationship, like so many other things, was not capitalized on by WCW.
5. Eddie and Vickie’s Singing Son-in-Law
Few WWE performers of the 21st are as beloved as the late Eddie Guerrero. His wife, Vicki, was a prominent on-air figure in her own right as general manager and all around corrupt authority figure that fans of the last decade loved to hate. Eddie and Vickie’s daughter Shaul competed in the WWE’s developmental territory of FCW as well as NXT from 2010-2014 before leaving to focus on her health. While there, however, she met Aiden English, formerly of NXT crowd favorites and main roster flops The Vaudevillains. Shaul and Aiden married in early 2016. English is now on his own, embracing his legitimate theatre background and trying to establish himself on the main roster. His connection to the Guerrero family is not discussed on WWE television, but maybe playing it up would help him gather interest.
4. Terry Ray Gordy Jr., Son Of A Freebird
While the WWE has invested much in second-generation stars over the past decade, not every child of a wrestler has made an impact. Terry Ray Gordy Jr., son of the late Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, seemingly had a perfect set-up. Not only was his father a revered star of the 80s, but his father’s best friend and Freebird partner Michael Hayes has been in a top creative position with the WWE for years. Ray never made it in the WWE, however. He was paired as Jesse with Luke Gallows’ Festus from 2007-2009. He was then reinvented as the white rapper Slam Master J. Neither gimmick caught on. Oddly, Ray’s first role in WWE was teaming with Henry Godwin as a new member of that kayfabe family. The WWE never played up Ray’s pedigree. It can only be speculated whether or not that would have helped. Ray had the disadvantage of debuting at a time when WWE creative was at one of its weakest points. However, he also never displayed the talent or the passion of his father.
3. Ronnie and Jimmy Garvin – Can I Call You Dad, Bro?
Speaking of Freebirds, later group member Jimmy Garvin was a mainstay of classic 1980s territories under his “Gorgeous” persona, enjoying success in Florida, World Class, the AWA, and Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW. It was in JCP that he turned face and “reunited” with his estranged brother Ronnie. Ron Garvin was a long-tenured veteran who was a major star in Georgia Championship Wrestling, and Crockett picked up Garvin when he absorbed what was left of the Georgia territory following Vince McMahon’s hasty retreat from Atlanta. In early 1987 Ronnie was burned by a fire-throwing Jim Cornette, leading Gorgeous Jimmy to abandon his heel ways and come to the aid of his brother against The Midnight Express. It was never odd for on-screen wrestling families to be unrelated – there is no better example of this than JCP stalwarts The Andersons – but Jimmy and Ronnie actually were related. They just weren’t brothers. Ronnie is actually Jimmy’s stepfather, despite being only 7 years older. Not much has been said about how the family dynamics played out, but it never seemed to hurt them in the ring.
2. Edge and Val Venis: Brief Brothers-in-Law and Rare Opponents
Edge was married to Sean Morley’s sister Alannah from 2001-2004, having dated her from 1998. The brothers-in-law both started in the WWE in 1998 and enjoyed similar mid-card success in 1999, when each briefly held the Intercontinental Title. Their paths diverged radically thereafter. Edge went on to a Hall of Fame career, winning nearly every belt and honor for which he was eligible, including four WWE Championships and seven World Heavyweight Titles. He developed into one of the most memorable characters and performers of the 2000s. Venis enjoyed limited championship success in a run of over ten years, but never felt the swell of support from the fans or the company that he enjoyed in his first year. Edge and Val Venis rarely wrestled each other, with Edge & Christian’s brief battle against the Right to Censor at the end of 2000 being the most notable exception.
1. Jake “the Snake” Roberts’ Sister Bird
The first ten minutes of the Jake “the Snake” Roberts Pick Your Poison documentary reveals the complex and troubled relationship he had with his father. Jake also has two step-siblings in wrestling. One is Sam Houston, a career mid-carder with the WWE. The other is Rockin’ Robin, who enjoyed far more success. Rockin’ Robin defeated Sherri Martel for the WWE Women’s Championship at the end of 1988 in Paris. She later defended the belt at the 1989 Royal Rumble. The tenures of the siblings over-lapped, but the relationship was never mentioned on air. The WWE retired the Women’s Title in 1990 and abandoned its women’s division for several years.
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